Remember those idyllic days of high school in the Texas A&M community, when the greatest tragedy of the day was forgetting your lunch money or bad grade on a test? Life went on. Everyone had friends, belonged or fit in to some group, or didn’t mind if they didn’t. Life went on. Today, for some high school students, life stops—when a student takes his or her own life. Markanthony (MA) Sterling, Managing Artistic Director of Brazos Valley Troupe, in an interview for Examiner.com on June 6, 2014, said, “I am so proud that we are able to offer the public a program such as “Truth AND Conquences,” because our own young people wrote this story. It came from their hearts and their minds, and I could not be prouder of them.”
Turn on the television today and you hear of suicides of famous young people. Actors such as Cory Monteith and Lee Thompson Young come to mind as two very handsome, intelligent accomplished actors, with everything to live for, seemingly, don’t, have anything to live for, when they turn to external means for comfort that leads to death or simply cut straight to the chase and take themselves out in a singular act. That, for today’s junior high and high school students, is reality. The Parent Resource Program of the Jason Foundation notes that “suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-24 and that four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.”
Bullies abound, cyberbullying is a reality and a group of people can come together and decide that one of the “weaker of the group” will be the target. The collective ugliness and vindictiveness of young people can leak through their brains and find a central victim. The victim succumbs to pressure and takes his or her own life. It's irreversible, it's brutal and it's a part of life, today, for Generation Cyberkids. Children and teens today might know a bully; they might know someone who is bullied; and now, chances are good that they may, in their young lifetimes, have a classmate or friend or family member who commits suicide. We don’t want to believe that, as a generation of Baby Boomers who think life is still Ozzie and Harriet and the Beaver and Wally. But it's there. It is real and it is one more pressure piled on teens today.
“Truth AND Consequences” is a brilliant work about the “aftermath after a teen suicide at a high school. There’s nothing graphic, just the hearing of a gunshot in the distant background,” Sterling said. Eight writers and eight more performers comprise the 16 children ranging from 10-18 years old, involved in the production. They wrote what Sterling says, “is the greatest production we’ve ever done. Note, there’s nothing graphic that you have to worry about and parents are encouraged to bring their young teens to see it. You won’t hear foul language either, in case you were wondering.
The young cast explores, from their own perspective, the feelings and reminiscences of some of the people in the world of the suicide victim. The action is the aftermath of the process following the death. You’ll hear dialogue from the victim’s best friend, who didn’t realize things were “this bad,” as well as someone who saw her in class every day but never knew her, another is the sister of the victim, and one is a bully who realizes the outcome of bullying.
It’s true life and it’s important, sadly, because this is reality for children today. Last week we saw the video of the young man who killed innocent people because he didn’t have “help,” and no one validated the warning signs even the parents were asking law enforcement to help with, before it was too late.
Sterling said, “The children wrote this. We did nothing but let them write. All I did was review punctuation.” MA added, “The writing was true, honest and important; the only issue I had was punctuation—had some of these children ever met a comma?”
Sterling said, our BV Troupe writing program is called The Pen PALS (which stands for Poets, Authors, Lyricists, and Scribes) and I put this in place because the SAT exam has an essay element required and so many of our children live on computers” that it’s rare for them to get time to learn how to write (by hand) and in sentences that aren’t just the choices of A, B, C, and D on a Scantron.
He said, “I want them to be prepared for college.” That’s vintage Sterling, because he doesn’t just teach his youth how to act, sing and perform. He harps on character, values, integrity, and shows a strong faith that he can make a difference. Clearly, they adore him as anyone who’s ever been to a TROUPE production knows.
The “Truth AND Consequences” presentation is the second half of a two act bill. TROUPE’s improvisational group, Oxymorons, will open the program with their LOL! Act, always a crowd pleaser. Sterling said that he already received an e-mail from a father who saw the show with his daughter on Friday night and he thanked MA for putting the show on because “he began to have a discussion with his daughter about the topic that night, one that he felt would not have taken place otherwise.”
As long as the reality of high school life is not idyllic any longer, we as a community can be most appreciative of community leaders like MA Sterling, who find a way to help children prepare for life, undergirded by a strong structure of support for their talents. No child involved in TROUPE is bullied by their peers; they’re uplifted and sustained. They have a peer group and the chief leader and his board of directors has been here in Bryan-College Station for now their 20th Season. That's another major achievement that Sterling says, “is due to every person who’s ever bought a ticket to a TROUPE performance, enrolled a child in a workshop or summer program, who’s donated an item to an auction or purchased an auction item at an event that we are here.”
Congratulations to MA Sterling for “Truth AND Consequences” and here’s to another 20 years of BV TROUPE. The final presentation of “Truth AND Consequences” will be Saturday, June 7 at 2 p.m. at the Troupe Theatre on 29th Street in College Station. Tickets are $10 each and no advance reservations are required for this special matinee performance.